Building innovation in the workplace: it all begins with culture – PART II
Part II: Strategic steps to take in innovative culture building.
In the previous article, we discussed our understanding of the culture of innovation in the workplace, its benefits for the organization, and how we in Innovatika approach the process of building such a culture methodically. Now, let’s focus on specific advice regarding encouraging creativity among employees and helping them find new opportunities, challenges, and approaches to business operations and processes.
There are many aspects to the phenomenon that we call “innovative culture.” Some are related to psychological well-being and shared values, while others focus on the practical side of innovation. In this post, we’ll talk about the latter – how we see the innovation process and what any organization can do to enhance and encourage employee participation.
It all starts with leadership
With the leader’s clear vision, the organization will take a step toward building a culture of innovation. Many still don’t, thus hampering their chances for success in the market. While updating processes, relocating resources, and changing attitudes is risky and time-consuming, it’s also necessary for the company to flourish. Leaders who recognize this take steps to implement innovative approaches at the organizational level. Their guidance, rather than solely training, boosts creativity and engagement among team members.
The tone and approach set by the leader are sometimes called “innovation parenting,” which refers to building a feeling of accountability among the organization’s people while supporting their development. Rather than focusing on innovation-hampering deadlines and budgets, it’s about fostering a sense of community and working toward a shared goal.
Ways to bring innovation into your organization
Here are some aspects that the leaders can improve to move the cultural transformation in their companies forward:
Defining goals: Transparency is vital. It not only instills trust in people, but the clear goal-setting also boosts innovation efforts. Why? Because once you know what your objective is, you can think of various ways of reaching it. Guidance in terms of responsibilities combined with creative freedom in achieving goals results in the development of a highly innovative culture.
Empowerment and autonomy: In a modern, innovative organization, each employee needs to know and feel that, to a certain extent, they have independence and freedom to think about new ideas and problem-solving techniques.
How we do it
At Innovatika, we work on various in-house solutions, usually originating from our employees. People who submit an idea have the opportunity to take care of it and lead the project. Within the organization, this requires building an openness to experimentation and incorporating the risk of failure. The design thinking methodology, deeply rooted in our company, helps address the inhibiting culture of “no” by engaging employees to think creatively without fear of failure or punishment.
Appreciation of unconventional thinking: There are no bad ideas. Of course, as a company, you will not implement every suggestion put on the table, but by encouraging outside-of-the-box thinking, you increase the chances of someone coming up with a course-changing solution.
Side projects and skills development: There is nothing worse for an employee than this “stuck in a rut” feeling. So be flexible when it comes to roles and responsibilities – encouraging people to work on side projects increases their creativity, job satisfaction, and, as a result, their loyalty to the company. Not to mention, it helps them develop skills and expertise. Those additional activities, together with training, workshops, and individual development plans, will help you activate people’s highest potential.
How we do it
At Innovatika, we have room for activities other than those we deal with daily. Each of us can get involved in, for example, promotional or sales activities, which is reflected in the commission system we have extended to all employees, not just those in the sales team.
Providing resources and tools for innovation: When transforming your company to be more innovative, think about setting aside a budget for research and development activities, as well as funds for situations when you will have a chance to turn your employees’ ideas into reality. On a more practical level, investing in tools needed for beneficial cooperation, idea development, prototyping, and testing is also helpful. In addition, consider organizing ideation frameworks and processes, such as hackathons, workshops, or boot camps, where innovations are made.
Constructive feedback: “Constructive” is the operative word here. You want to encourage your employees to invent more, create bravely, and add to the flow of ideas. Recognize their work, discuss improvements, involve initiators in the implementation phases, and always show appreciation.
How we do it
What we do with the failures that happen to us is crucial – in an innovative culture, there must be space for both making mistakes and talking about them. At Innovatika, we conduct a Lessons Learnt process after every project. We always create a space for everyone who worked on an issue to share their experiences and reflections. We also discuss aspects we think didn’t work, try to find the cause, and address that in subsequent iterations. An innovative organization needs to learn from its mistakes.
We want to give better and more effective feedback while being attentive to the other party’s emotions. It’s a process in which each of us may feel more or less confident at times, but as an organization, we provide the space and tools to practice this skill, and we support anyone who desires to develop in this area.
Incentives and rewards: This point also relates to recognition. And it concerns more than just bonuses handed out for a job well done. It’s about keeping a watchful eye on the daily actions that foster the culture of innovation in your organization. It’s the gentle art of continuously motivating your team to do and be better.
In the next article, we’ll discuss the role values and emotions play in creating a culture of innovation. We’ll also have a closer look at effective communication and ways to measure innovation in the workplace. Talk to us if you want to learn about our approach or compare experiences.